10. Chen Yu
Influenced by the art of printmaking, Chen Yu differentiates himself with the monotony of his subjects, which are cloned as if they were reproduced by the printing press. The portraits repeat with boredom, with the figures looking detached from each other and forlorn, while among them one figure looks on. The artist’s sense of humour is perceptible in the way he illustrates individuality.
9. Yiyong Zhu
Zhu Yi Yong’s “Red Star” paintings are depictions of children rendered in a highly realistic style. His use of a monochromatic palate to paint the children is offset by the high-keyed string of red that forms the red star in the children’s hands. The red star that every child has shaped in their hands carries all the weight of China’s revolutionary past. It is a wry juxtaposition, the children of the future holding in their hands the powerful symbol of China’s collective memory.
8. Yu Youhan
Yu Youhan is widely considered the father of abstract painting and Political Pop in China. In his conversation, he talks about his life during the Cultural Revolution and the impact those experiences have had on his art. His Pop-style paintings from the late 1980s have a decorative aspect derived from folk art, and his figurative paintings represent both the history of China and his own personal history.
7. Li Shan
A founding member of Political Pop, Li is best known for his Warholian portraits of Chairman Mao from the 1990s, as well as his more recent “biological art”—semi-abstract images of plants and animals.
6. Shen JingDong
Shen worked at Battlefront Culture Troupe which inspired his famous series “ Heroes”. His cartoonized soldiers look like ceramic toys. They quietly stand starring at the audience, making them considering soldiers’ self-being beyond their social responsibility.
5. Wang Guangyi
Wang Guangyi is known as a leader of the new art movement that started in China after 1989, and for his Great Criticism series of paintings which use images of propaganda from the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and contemporary brand names from western advertising.
4. Liu Ye
Liu Ye’s paintings are deceptively cheerful in their imagery and colors; beneath their childlike, almost cartoon-like simplicity, the works look critically at serious issues of globalization, economic crisis, and a sense of innocence lost in Mao Zedong’s China. Liu was equally influenced by the propagandistic art of the Cultural Revolution and his father’s illustrations for children’s books, which were ultimately censored and considered a forbidden practice.
3. Yue MinJun
Ranked 173 in the top 300 Internet’s Most Popular Artists by Artnet, Yue Minjun – inspired by surrealism – is famous for his Hysterical Laughter series. At first glance, his images look happy and amusing, but his blue skies and bubblegum-pink faces soon turn into something sinister and we realize that the subjects of his paintings are laughing at something they really shouldn’t be laughing at, like a mass execution.
2. Zhang Xiaogang
Best known for his “Bloodlines: The Big Family” series, Zhang draws on memory to paint portraits that fuse his personal history with the legacy of the Cultural Revolution. Inspired by formal family portraits, the paintings represent both the individual and the faceless masses of China at once. The figures, often dressed in identical Mao suits, have distinctive red blood lines which demonstrate the links between people.
1. Zeng Fanzhi
Zeng Fanzhi’s The Last Supper scored an auction record for Asian contemporary art.
Inspired by German expressionism, world-renowned painter Zeng explores alienation and isolation through his references to historical figures and dark aspects of humanity (as in his famous “Meat” series), often rendered in grotesque exaggeration. His most famous artwork is a recreation of “The Last Supper” by Da Vinci, which depicts the last meal between Jesus and the 12 disciples when Jesus foretold his betrayal by Judas. In Zeng’s work, the religious figures have been replaced by young communists with red neckties. The figure replacing Judas wears a western-style yellow tie – symbolizing China’s move toward capitalism.